Can a Warrantless Search and Seizure Occur in Arizona?
When can police officers carry out a search of a home or a vehicle in Arizona and are they exempt from warrant requirements? The answer depends on several things. Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, US citizens are protected against warrantless search and seizure. Thus, under most circumstances, a warrant will be required for a home or a personal property search to occur. There are a few exceptions that apply and these will be examined in detail in the article.
General Search and Seizure Regulations in Arizona
The constitution of the state doesn’t reaffirm the Fourth Amendment specifically but several provisions highlight the right of privacy of Arizona residents.
Section 8 of the Declaration of Rights states that no person will be disturbed in their private affairs without authority of law. Title 13 of Arizona State Legislature states that a search warrant may be issued on the basis of:
- Evidence that property has been stolen or embezzled
- When property and personal belongings have been used as a means of committing a crime
- Property or things being given to somebody for the purpose of being concealed
- Property or personal belongings being considered evidence of a crime
- A public health and safety interest
- The person sought being the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant
When can a Warrantless Search and Seizure Occur?
In Arizona, police officers cannot conduct a warrantless search or seizure unless they believe it is an urgent matter. A few other exceptions to the warrant requirements exist. The most common ones are:
- The individual interacting with police officers provides voluntary consent for search and seizure to occur. In such instances, a police officer isn’t required to tell the individual in question that they have the right to deny the warrantless search.
- Whenever an item or a personal belonging is in plain sight and the police officer has probable cause to believe that the respective item has to be subjected to an immediate search and seizure.
- A person being in custodial arrest. It doesn’t really matter what the charge is. As long as a person is taken in custody, law enforcement professionals have the right to carry out a warrantless search and seizure.
- Pressing and urgent circumstances exist (as already mentioned in the introduction). Whenever police officers believe that the actions of a suspect could endanger someone, for example, they have the right to carry out a search and seizure.
A person can be taken in custody on two occasions – whenever there’s sufficient evidence of a crime being committed and whenever the safety of officers is endangered. It’s easy to see that some of these conditions are open to interpretation.
The State is Committed to Protecting Your Rights
As you can see, numerous exceptions apply to the requirement for getting a warrant before a search occurs. Still, the state is committed to protecting the privacy of citizens and limiting warrantless searches as much as possible.
In 2007, Arizona took specific actions to limit warrantless searches by the police. The State v. Wilson case is the one that contributed to the change.
It was discovered that the defendant kept mercury in their house. As a result, police officers entered without a warrant and were welcomed by the smell of marijuana. Marijuana plants were eventually discovered on the property and the defendant was charged with the production of marijuana and the possession of drug-related paraphernalia.
The trial court concluded that the police officers had the right to carry out a warrantless search because of pressing circumstances. The court of appeals, however, reversed the decision. The Supreme Court also affirmed the fact that the search was not justified.
While the community care-taking exception was invoked (it applies solely to vehicle searches), the Supreme Court ruled out that it did not apply. It’s also interesting to point out that the possession of mercury isn’t unlawful and it’s also not considered a public health or safety threat. Consult experienced crime lawyers immediately on facing any violation.